This paper outlines aspects of the ritual practice of a Maya shaman, Sebastian or Don Chabo (DC), with whom I was fortunate to work and record over the final 16 years of his life. I spell out two fundamental elements. The first is what I call his ontological commitments – that is, what he held to exist as the necessary basis and frame of reference for his own practices. Second, I examine the transformations that DC underwent in the process of ritual performance. DC relinquished aspects of his own subjectivity in order to channel the creative and restorative force of spirits. He moved spirits into the altar space, bodies, homes, and lives of patients, beneficiaries, and, indeed, himself. Features of performance progressively attenuated DC’s subjecthood, emptying him, narrowing his focus, and reducing him to a state he called chichan, ‘tiny.’
A special commentary from Aniruddhan Vasudevan, Link-Cotsen Postdoctoral Fellow, 2020-2023, Society of Fellows, Lecturer in the Council of Humanities and Anthropology, Princeton University
This talk is in a workshop format.